Best of Detroit 2012
Public Square - Staff Picks
Our staff picks for Metro Detroit
Published: April 25, 2012
Best Example of Journalism Shaking Things Up
WXYZ-TV's "Wayne County
Back in September, WXYZ's investigative team broke the story that Turkia Mullin, newly hired to be director of the Wayne County Airport Authority, received a $200,000 severance payment as she was leaving her post as the cash-strapped county's economic development director. Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano immediately began stonewalling and obfuscating as the scandal exploded, other area media began piling on and then the FBI rolled on in. Since then, there have been a slew of firings and resignations. Two former members of Team Ficano have been charged with federal felonies, and another has been indicted. Mullin was fired from the airport post and repaid the severance. The FBI investigation is ongoing, an attempted recall of Ficano is under way. And the station has rightly received an armful of well-deserved awards for the work. Earning kudos have been reporters Heather Catallo and Ross Jones, editor Randy Lundquist and photographers Ramon Rosario and Johnny Sartin. Ann Mullen, an MT alum, is the executive producer of WXYZ-TV's investigative unit.
Best Change to Local
Thom Hartmann's new time slot on WDTW/1310 AM
The way we see it, the sanest voice on the radio airwaves belongs to Thom Hartmann. He provides a wealth of knowledge, rational discourse and honest debate instead of inflammatory rhetoric. A student of history, this Michigan native's nationally syndicated show is a must listen for anyone who wants to be politically well-informed. And the best thing is that listening in this area recently got much easier when Hartmann's live call-in program moved to the afternoon drive-time slot. Check it out weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m.
Best Thing About Local Right-Wing Radio
Charlie Langton's show on WXYT-AM/1270
Granted, Charlie usually comes off as being entirely overcaffeinated, especially at 6 in the morning. And his voice is set at a constant level: LOUD! But for a guy who occupies the same home on the local radio dial as extremist nut jobs like Glenn Beck and Laura Ingram, Langton is refreshingly — dare we say it — moderate. A lawyer with a regular gig as a commentator on the local Fox TV affiliate, Langton actually uses his radio show to promote actual debate, and does it in a way that's generally respectful. Rush Limbaugh he ain't. And that's a very good thing. Airing 6-9 weekday mornings, the show is worth listening to, even if you're a liberal.
Best Local Reality TV Stars
The Gold Family
Hardcore Pawn, truTV
The father-and-kids melodrama of Hardcore Pawn, swirling around the daily customer encounters and backroom battles of Detroit pawnbroker Les Gold (could there be a better name for a man in his profession?), his son, Seth, and daughter, Ashley Gold Broad, remains the top-rated show on truTV in its sixth season. It has even spawned a spinoff series, Hardcore Pawn Fort Bragg, to premiere on truTV later this year. It'll have to go some to match the raw outrageousness of the original: Even though you know the family squabbles are magnified for the sake of the camera and Detroiters don't really display their ignorant backsides in public like that for the world to see (do we?), the viewing experience of Hardcore Pawn is an irresistibly guilty delight.
1610-AM, The Station
11758 Sobieski St., Hamtramck; 313-718-1610; am1610.org
Since May 2009, tech geek Steven Cherry has been sending low-power AM signal from his home in Hamtramck. He built a studio for the station later that year, and it regularly hosts local luminaries who create their own radio programming, with Cherry as station manager. Of course, that all sounds much more official than the way he puts it: "We are your weird friends with lots of records," he says, in his typically disarming way. But local rockers have shows, including Jeffrey Fournier and Timmy "Vulgar" Lampinen of Timmy's Organism, as does local tavern owner and record collector Andy Dow of the Painted Lady, as well as MT's own Michael Jackman. The new shows are broadcast live on Sundays, and rebroadcast throughout the week, not just on the airwaves but streaming on the website. Most of the time, it's just freeform fun, but Cherry hopes to engage the community as much as possible. He says, "Call us or send us a text. Leave a clever message and maybe we'll play it on the air."
Best Reason We Still Have a Hoedown in Motown
Tim Roberts, program director, WYCD-FM
The Downtown Hoedown celebrates its 30th anniversary this summer, meaning Detroit undeniably was country before country was cool. But think about it: How many cities south of the Mason-Dixon would relish the idea of stealing away such a massive outdoor musical tradition and claiming it as their own — indeed, believe it should be their birthright? One of the prime movers behind keeping the country kickin' here is Roberts, who this year was named Numero Uno among all country radio programmers in America, according to the publication Radio Ink. He's considered one of the most powerful people in country music and a native Detroiter, so much of what happens surrounding keeping the Hoedown here — including its move to the more spacious and easier-to-access Comerica Park this year — conforms to Roberts' rules of order. And even though the formerly free festival is a ticketed, paid event for the first time, the alternative — thousands of visitors staying away from downtown the first weekend in June, and keeping their cash in their pockets — sounds as sad as a country ballad.
> Email MT Staff